OSHKOSH, Wis.—University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross today offered a biennial budget proposal focused on developing the “talent and ideas to improve Wisconsin’s economy and impact the world.”

Cross’ remarks, which he presented to the UW System Board of Regents during its meeting in Oshkosh, were part of a larger presentation of his vision for the UW System’s future. Cross said the current social and economic climate dictates that the System provide strategic leadership, management, and accountability to its 26 institutions across the state.

In that role, the UW System as a whole becomes “a powerful catalyst, one capable of truly transforming the state’s societal and economic conditions in ways that benefit all Wisconsinites,” he said.

“It is not enough to be organized as a system of universities,” Cross explained. “We also have to perform as a system, leveraging the collective power of our universities in ways that significantly add value and produce results for our stakeholders.”

Cross said the UW System must concentrate its “collective impact” on creating the climate and conditions that have successfully led to job growth, business expansion and a diverse economic base in other states.

The key element is human talent, he explained.

“I am proposing that our biennial budget request focus on the development of talent,” Cross said.  Citing conversations with business and industry leaders and a recent report on Wisconsin’s workforce, he said the UW System must take a leadership role in addressing the problem.

“We have a talent gap in Wisconsin and it’s holding back our economy,” Cross said. “To grow, our economy badly needs more high-impact talent. How does the production of high-impact talent stimulate an economy? One only has to look at Stanford University and the Silicon Valley, or North Carolina’s Research Triangle, or Boston’s Route 128 Corridor, and, right here in Wisconsin—Madison, Milwaukee, Stout, and on and on. All of these clusters of high-impact talent continue to fuel their state’s economy, in good times and bad.”

“President Cross’ vision and priorities are right on the mark,” said Michael J. Falbo, president of the UW Board of Regents. “The Board wants the UW System to leverage all of its resources and leadership to improve Wisconsin’s economy and its quality of life.  Accomplishing that objective requires developing, retaining, and attracting talent within and to our state. This plan will launch that effort in a more targeted and systematic manner.”

Cross laid out a three-part “Talent Development Initiative” that would advance his vision of a “talent-based economy.” Under the proposal, $42.3 million in UW funds would be used to leverage a proposed $95.2 million in new state funds. Along with UW’s internal cuts and reallocations, the combined resources would enable UW to streamline transfer options; address math remediation needs involving working age and traditional-age college students; and expand the number and availability of dual-enrollment courses that high school students may take for both high school and college credit.

The budget request also lays out a series of performance measures to monitor and assess progress in key areas related to student success and talent development.

“I applaud President Cross’ vision,” said Regina Millner, vice president of the Board of Regents. “It is clearly focused on making Wisconsin a place where our residents enjoy economic prosperity and a high quality of life. As Regents we must embrace and advocate for this plan.”

The UW Board approved Cross’ biennial budget proposal Thursday afternoon and sent it on to Gov. Scott Walker for consideration as part of the biennial budget package his office will begin preparing this fall.

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